Exclusive possession or the intention of the parties? The relation of landlord and tenant in Northern Ireland
The seminal House of Lords judgment in Street v Mountford established that the test for distinguishing between a lease and a licence is whether the occupant has been granted exclusive possession of the premises. The test is objective: the relation of landlord and tenant exists where exclusive possession has been granted, regardless of the intention of the parties. However, this stands at odds with the law in both parts of Ireland, where s 3 of Deasy’s Act states that the relation of landlord and tenant ‘shall be deemed to be founded on the . . . contract of the parties’. This article analyses the historical background that led to Deasy’s Act, surveys contemporary case law in both parts of Ireland on leases vs licences and argues that the law in this area in Northern Ireland differs from that in England and Wales.